Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Eve

Tonight I shall see in the New Year in the traditional British way by severely punishing my liver with copious amounts of alcoholic beverages. Hopefully there will also be some chocolate involved. If not, then never mind, as I’m sure the Tesco’s Value whiskey will see me through just fine.

The New Year is a chance to start again. But I think that in this day and age people forget to work on the most important things, and instead aim for grand revolutions that are simply unrealistic and overly ambitious. Alternatively, people set themselves a challenge, but forget to think about how they could go about accomplishing it in little steps, thus making it much harder for them to achieve their goals. Every year, when I write my New Year’s Resolutions, I think to myself, “I’m never going to manage this”, and, of course, I’m right. This year, when I make my plan, I shall try to focus on how I will actually fulfil each resolution. Here they are.

1. Stop biting my nails. Here’s one grand sweeping statement. But what I will do is cut down slowly, by first of all limiting it to my left hand, and then limiting it to my middle finger, and then stopping once and for all. If I manage this I can literally do anything.
2. Go to the gym. I hate exercise. I prefer books and chocolate. But I hereby vow that on Mondays, after games, I will go to the gym at school and read whilst on the treadmill. If I have an incentive to go, like a quiet half an hour of Hemingway, I may be able to convince myself that exercise is fun.
3. Eat an apple a day. No way am I going to say that I’ll eat five portions of fruit and veg a day. I will eat an apple. But only if it’s crunchy and green.
4. Do my homework on time. Dear Lord. The essays simply pile up. But, if I break them into little sections, for example making the plan when it’s set, writing the introduction the next day, and then the next paragraph the next day and so on, I may be able to keep on top of it.
5. Stop fighting with my family. When they are annoying, leave the room. Or do breathing exercises. Or something. And bear in mind that if you tell them to shove the hell off, they could ground you, and that would be sad.
6. Don’t overuse Facebook. I may find a way on my PC to limit myself to half an hour a day on certain websites (I shall include YouTube in this). Alternatively, block it until after 10pm so that I have to do my homework first. Or just delete my account . . . oh no, wait, sorry, not going to happen.
7. Read more. I suppose this will be one of the side effects of less Facebook. Instead of staying up on the computer every night, I shall read a nice story. Simples.
8. Practise cello more. Oh my days, how shall I accomplish this one. I hereby set myself the challenge of half an hour a day, ESPECIALLY on Wednesdays when I have my lesson, as if I don’t do it then I shall leave it in its case all week.
9. Drink less alcohol. Starting from tomorrow, of course. Tonight is New Year’s Eve. Give me a break. But when I get very drunk I do very silly things that I later on regret, so I shall limit myself to one beer at parties and be done with it.
10. Don’t stab stupid people. Nuff said.

I reckon 2011 has been my best and worst year yet. On the downside, I’ve had GCSEs, bitchy friends, a screw-up of a love affair, a hell of a lot of family drama, and disappointment left, right and centre. On the other hand, I did bloody well in my exams, made some excellent new friends, started a really quite nice love affair, have some good times with my family, and went to Israel and Greece. I don’t think I’ve done too badly. And neither has the world, which may have struggled through a mighty financial recession and had millions of people being murdered in uprisings all over the Middle East and Africa, horrible violence in the riots in the UK, an earthquake in Japan, a massacre in Norway and demonstrations all over the place, but still managed to chug out a political revolution, independence in South Sudan, a treaty between India and Pakistan, water on Mars, the homecoming (finally) of Gilad Shalit, the end of the Iraq War, seven billion people on the planet, and a royal wedding to boot. Plus Dougie from McFly won I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and Little Mix didn't get the Christmas No. 1.

When things look shit, just check the Wikipedia page, and you’ll find a million happy things that you’d forgotten about. We gravitate towards the gloomy. It’s in our nature. Learn to fight it. There’s my lesson for the New Year.
Happy New Year, and see y’all in 2012.

Friday, 23 December 2011

I am ancient.

Well, not ancient, but quite old. Seventeen, to be precise. I promised you a nice post full of delight and excitement but, to be honest, I'm so exhausted right now I can't really be bothered. I properly turned seventeen about twenty minutes ago, at half past eleven, and now there's only ten minutes left of my birthday. Boy have I had a lovely day. And now I am tired and needing to pack because I'm away again this week. Much love, have a lovely Christmas et cetera, and speak to y'all on Thursday. BYE.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Well, I've been on holiday.

Just thought I’d let you know I’ve been away. It was fun. I went to Kent for a four-day residential with my youth movement Noam, and the aim was to reassess the policies and ideology for the coming year. We do this every December and, if I’m honest, we spend more time arguing about how to make the decision than actually making any decisions. Even within the tiniest group of people who all want the same thing, bureaucracy gets in the way. People become so bogged down in the details that they forget what really matters, and all they can focus on are standing orders and petty legislation. If an agreement can be reached, why not make the effort to reach it, rather than hiding behind stacks of paper?

Also, guess what. Tomorrow’s my birthday. Expect an excitable blog post from me.

Friday, 16 December 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

This is officially the best Christmas film ever made. Made in 1946, it tells the story of a guy called George Bailey, played by the ever-dashing James Stewart, who reluctantly spends his life in the little town of Bedford Falls in New England and contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve before being distracted by his guardian angel, Clarence. George tells Clarence that it would have been better if he’d never been born, and of course Clarence decides to show George exactly what the world would have been like had he never existed.

The film touches on many Christmassy themes, but what resounds most with me is the idea that a man who never achieves his goals or gets what he wants can still have a wonderful life. George spends his whole life making sacrifices because his conscience tells him to: he never goes to college, he never travels, and he does a job he hates because no one else will do it. In every instance he kicks himself for giving in and letting himself get dragged down, but he’s so generous and kind that he sees everything through and makes an awful lot of other people’s lives much happier as a result of it. And what this means is that when George regrets ever having lived at all, Clarence is able to convince him of how important he is in the grand scheme of things.

It’s an uplifting movie. It ends with a family reunited, a happy little angel and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne. It’s the sort of movie you watch with mulled wine and a box of tissues. Or, at least, I do, because I’m disgustingly sentimental about old Hollywood films. It’s the sort of film that tries to change your perspective of life, and says, “Look carefully; it isn’t all that bad.”

Nearly every Hollywood movie made these days has a common theme: achieve your dreams. It’s a Wonderful Life is the story of a man who never achieved his dreams, but was still a worthwhile human being and managed to change the world for the better. Now there’s a happy message if ever there was one.

"You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"

Monday, 12 December 2011

Ten reasons why the last week of the autumn term is fabulous

It’s my favourite time of year. This week is set to be the best week of the school year. Here is why. They’re not in order because some things just can’t be put in order of preference.

1. Christmas lunch Every year I get the black forest gateau and every year it’s disgusting, but somehow Christmas lunch is still wonderful
2. Christmas assembly The head of music playing Jingle Bells in the style of Handel, year 7s in reindeer headdresses, the Twelve Days of Christmas NLCS-style . . .
3. Secret Santa More chocolate than you can possibly eat shoved into your pigeon hole. What’s not to love?
4. Less homework The teachers have basically given up by now, which is good, because so have we (a long time ago).
5. Shorter week Last day of school is Thursday. Major excitement.
6. Half day on Thursday And after school on Thursday I’m going to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park with friends, which is a delightful prospect.
7. Food in every lesson Tis the season for putting on weight, so we have biscuits, chocolate and cake in every class.
8. Christmas decorations Most classrooms are decorated at least semi-festively with a paper chain or too. We used to go all out with Christmas fairies with our faces on them.
9. Games in lessons In Latin we had a quiz on Ancient Rome (which my team just happened to win) and in Classics we played “What would Cicero do on a blind date?” Brilliant.
10. Auld Lang Syne Holding hands in the last assembly and singing really loudly. Nothing beats it.

This post definitely makes me look like a massive Christmas fanatic. I’m not. It’s just fun to get into at school. Honestly.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I can upload photos!

This excites me hugely. Watch:

Honestly didn't know I could do that. Thought I'd show you a picture of a wolf because I love wolves. Best animals ever. Anyways. I shall include pictures in my posts from now on.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Best songs to listen to when you're feeling blue

A tiny selection. This is by no means definitive, but I have essays to write so I’m not going to make a longer one.

1. Highly Evolved – The Vines This is the one I jump on my bed to.
2. Poisoning Pigeons in the Park – Tom Lehrer One of the funniest and darkest songs you’ll ever hear.
3. Better Than Revenge – Taylor Swift She literally sings about my life and I adore her. This one is nice and angry.
4. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses TUNE. Enough said.
5. I Can Do Better – Avril Lavigne It’s a dreadful song, I must say, but the chorus does go “I can do better, I can do better” so it’s on the list.
6. All Star – Smash Mouth What a song. It is a lovely lively pick-me-up. Try playing air guitar along with it.
7. Roll Over Beethoven – The Beatles Love ‘em.
8. I’ve Got a Dream – Tangled One of the best songs from one of the best Disney movies ever made. Watch the clip that goes along with it too, it’s really funny with dancing rats.
9. Year 3000 – Busted I grew up to this song and it still makes me feel happy.
10. Don’t Stop Believing – Journey Ooh it’s fantastic. Dance around and cheer up.

Just so you know, when I post these lists they’re not necessarily in order of favouritism. I could never be so unfair to the poor music.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

That massive book list I promised you ages ago

I said I'd make you one so here it is. Sometimes I've put down more than one book per author because I think it is vital for you to read both of them. For example, you can't read Twain's Great American Novel without reading Tom Sawyer first. And some of them, like Philip Pullman, have one major work for which they are particularly famous, but other little ones too which are mind-bogglingly brilliant and should also be read. Enjoy.

1. The Outsiders – SE Hinton
2. That was Then, This is Now – SE Hinton
3. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
4. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
5. Clockwork – Philip Pullman
6. I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
7. Finn Family Moomintroll – Tove Jansson
8. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
9. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
10. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
11. Emma – Jane Austen
12. Howards End – EM Forster
13. Where Angels Fear to Tread – EM Forster
14. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières
15. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
16. The Silmarillion – JRR Tolkien
17. The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
18. Harry Potter – JK Rowling
19. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
20. Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer
21. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
22. Sexing the Cherry – Jeanette Winterson
23. Tanglewreck – Jeanette Winterson
24. The Tidewater Tales – John Barth
25. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
26. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time – Mark Haddon
27. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
28. One More River – Lynne Reid Banks
29. The Princess Bride – William Goldman
30. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall-Smith
31. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
32. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
33. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
34. The Midnight Folk – John Masefield
35. The Railway Children – E Nesbit
36. Kiss the Dust – Elizabeth Laird
37. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
38. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain
39. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
40. Kensuke’s Kingdom – Michael Morpurgo
41. The Sword in the Stone – TH White
42. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M Pirsig
43. Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
44. Life of Pi – Yann Martel

Thursday, 1 December 2011


Being awake at midnight isn’t an irregular occurrence for me, but last night it was particularly special because I got to turn over my calendar onto the last month of the year, which excited me because the picture is of a bowl of jelly babies and I am a big child. December is my favourite month of the year by far, and 1st December always gets me very excited. I ran around school today telling everyone that it’s twenty two days until my birthday.

All the good stuff comes in December. We, of course, have the birthday of Noa, but we also have the birthday of Jesus, who is a somewhat more significant international figure. There’s also the end of term, really lovely cold frost on the windscreen of the car in the morning, New Years Eve, Channuka, and the way your breath twists up into the air in smoky curls. When you walk along the Southbank, there are grills of roast chestnuts that are so hot when you buy them you have to blow on each one for a good two minutes. We get Christmas television (It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually, A Christmas Carol, The Holiday, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, not to mention the Doctor Who Christmas special). Plus my winter treat every year is a trip to the ballet with my grandma. This year we’re doing The Nutcracker by the English National Ballet, and I am ridiculously excited. Last year we saw Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, and it was magnificent.

One of my favourite things about December is that it is the month of sparkles. Each year, on the roundabout at Highbury Corner, the trees are draped with strings of little white stars, and as I walk past they look like star dust has fallen on them. Up and down Oxford Street, great glittering decorations dangle from shop to shop, and every window display is filled with Fair Isle sweaters and candy canes and stockings and enormous sparkly trees. The Hamleys window display is always particularly spectacular at this time of year, as are Fortnum and Mason’s, Selfridges’, and Harrods’.

And to top it all off, December is the only month of the year in which I allow myself to listen to Christmas music, including that giant among Christmas songs known as Fairytale of New York, and possibly the most excellent moment of my day was when I sat down on the bus on my way to school and clicked on that title in my iPod. The music is just sublime and the Pogues are geniuses.

A famous December motto is “In December, keep yourself warm and sleep”. I totally disagree with this. I think that in December we should all keep warm and go outside and soak up the cold air. Go for a long walk on the Heath and be healthy and bright. The ponds freeze over, the sky is white, and the robin redbreasts are out. Wear thick woolly gloves and walking boots, and go to Kenwood House afterwards for hot chocolate. Feel the winter spirit. It’s the best time of the year.

Happy December!

Some extra stuff . . .

Today my lovely friend Saachi Sen released a song, Heal, because she is splendid. Click on her name to buy it on Amazon.

Plus, the marvellous Alex Day wants a Christmas no. 1. Click on his name to hear his song Forever Yours.